Peter Philips is like a kid with a new toy – or perhaps that should be a new set of toys. Why? Because the 40-year-old Belgian make-up artist and Global Creative Director of Make-up at Chanel, the man responsible for making “greige” all the rage for nails this spring, is unveiling his first collection of lipsticks. And to say that he’s eager to show off his creations would be an understatement.
Rouge Coco is the name of the lipstick, available in every shade you could desire – from barely-there nude to full-on red. In the Salon Vendome, a gleaming white room in Chanel’s fine jewellery boutique, beauty editors from the top magazines squeal with delight as they play with the sleek black tubes of lip colour and watch the Rouge Coco ad, which stars French beauty Vanessa Paradis.
Philips had a very clear desire when he embarked on this project. “I wanted to make lipsticks more accessible again, to seduce women into rediscovering lipstick,” he explains. “I was thinking about how to win over girls who have grown up with gloss and are afraid of lipstick.
“I wanted to make a lipstick in a range of colours that was accessible to them and with a texture that was easy for them to wear. Lipstick gives them a different attitude – a bit more maturity, maybe, and certainly a bit more sensuality.”
For Philips, lipstick is the ultimate in elegance – and Chanel’s lipsticks have always been the most chic of them all. Pointing at a shiny black tube with a gold rim, he says: “This is what a lipstick looks like. It was created by Mademoiselle Chanel and it’s the most copied pack in the world.”
Part of the inspiration for launching a new collection of lipsticks was the popularity of the iconic quilted Chanel bag. “Chanel lipstick has as strong a design as that handbag,” says Philips.
Lipstick was an essential part of the Chanel look – so much so that, to ensure that she (and her clients) never mislaid hers, Coco Chanel also designed a special, tubular, pocket in her handbags specially for lipstick.
Philips wanted to make sure that there was a lip shade for everyone – hence there are 31 different Rouge Coco’s. Most importantly, since every aspect of the collection is a homage to Coco Chanel (even the number 31 is significant as it refers to her Paris address, 31 rue de Cambon), it had to have a choice of reds – no fewer than three, in fact, including the one which he reckons “Mademoiselle” would have worn: Gabrielle.
When he was working on the colours, Philips drew the outline of empty lipsticks and filled in the shades, working his way out from his core reds. On one side, the line went darker, through dramatic russets and browns, while on the other, it grew lighter and more subtle.
Explaining the profusion of near-nude shades, Philips says: “I had to have a lot of beiges and pinks to justify my motive of appealing to girls who weren’t used to lipstick. It was kind of tricky because some of the shades are really similar but once they’re applied, they give a different makeup result depending on the lip.”
Asked if he’s particularly proud of any of them, he replies: “Well, of course they’re all my babies. I’ve been working on them for two years, and I’m proud of them all.” But he points out that he’s delighted to have been able to include some classic Chanel shades from the past, among them the elegant coral Sari Dore, which was one of the colours available when Chanel first launched lipstick back in 1954.
“Yes, I brought some shades back, but not literally because some of the pigments are not allowed any more, and we had to change the texture to make it more contemporary and comfortable.”
For Philips, the revival of classic Chanel lip colours within the range gives it a bit of vintage appeal, and fits in perfectly with the current obsession many women have with the looks of the past – especially the 1940s and 1950s, when lipstick was at the peak of its popularity.
* Rouge Coco Hydrating Lip Colour lipsticks (£21 each) are on sale now. Visit www.chanel.com to see the shades. For stockists, call 020-7493 3836.